Disney's Broadway musical, The Lion King, is one of the biggest and most beloved theater shows of all time. Last week, it was announced that the show is the first Broadway show ever to gross more than $1 billion in revenue. As of Oct. 6, the show was at $997 million, but by the end of October, that number will grow to more than $1 billion.
It's an amazing feat, especially for a show that's not even the longest-running production in Broadway's history. (That title belongs to The Phantom of the Opera, which has been on Broadway since 1988 — nearly 10 years longer than "The Lion King.") Part of what made The Lion King such a strong money-maker is that in its run, the musical has only dropped under 80 percent audience capacity less than 12 times.
Here are a few facts about The Lion King, the highest-grossing musical of all time:
- The Lion King opened on Broadway in 1997 (Nov. 13, 1997, to be exact). Its previews began Oct. 15, 1997.
- It is the fifth longest running show in Broadway history, with 6,621 (as of Oct. 20, 2013).
- Julie Taymor, who directed The Lion King, became the first woman in Broadway history to win the Tony Award for Best Director of a Musical. (Yay Julie!)
- The musical debuted not on Broadway, but in Minneapolis, MN at the Orpheum Theatre in July 1997.
- The Lion King was first performed at New Amsterdam Theater in NYC's theater district, but moved in 2006 to the Minskoff Theatre in order to make room for another Disney show, Mary Poppins.
- Music for the production, as well as the Disney film, was done by Elton John.
- The Lion King has been produced in various other countries, including England, Japan, Canada, Australia, and South Africa.
- The costume design for the show has been widely praised for its creativity. The show won an award for Best Costume Design at the 1998 Tony Awards.
- There is currently one U.S. touring production, although at one time, there were two. It's identical to the Broadway version, except for some of the scenic elements, which were swapped for more affordable options.
- The character of Rafiki was modified from the Disney film and given a larger role in the musical. Additionally, because director Julie Taymor felt the story lacked a strong female character, Rafiki was changed into a female mandrill and sangoma. In the musical, Rafiki acts as a narrator for the story.
- Other changes from the film include extra scenes that help develop some of the characters. More music was added, too.